By Keith Melrose 4:25PM 3 OCT 2016
Chepstow’s meeting this weekend offers the first big jumps fixture of the winter season. Keith Melrose looks forward to five big names and emerging stars that we could see over the two days.
Colin’s Sister, 2.40
Whether or not Gloucestershire trainer Fergal O’Brien still requires a breakthrough depends on how high his ambitions are. O’Brien has been firmly on the scene for most of this decade, but this year he has a couple of horses that could help cross the divide between good handicappers and graded competitors.
EBF Final winner Barney Dwan is one such prospect and Colin’s Sister is another. She belatedly showed why she’d been campaigned so ambitiously last season when finishing second to top bumper performer The Nipper at Sandown on Imperial Cup day. Very much jumps bred, she could develop into a useful novice hurdler.
Clan Des Obeaux, 3.15
With International Hurdle winner Old Guard likely to debut over fences at Newton Abbot on Friday, the way seems clearer for Clan Des Obeaux to run for Paul Nicholls in this 2m3f novice chase.
Clan Des Obeaux, formerly part-owned by Potensis Bloodstock whose share has been taken by Ged Mason and Sir Alex Ferguson, is just a four-year-old. While he perhaps didn’t achieve everything that was expected of him over hurdles, he still finished sixth in the Triumph Hurdle and is very much the type Nicholls does well with once they go over fences.
The Sefton Novices’ Hurdle has had more than its share of puzzling results down the years, but it is difficult not to be positive about last season’s winner Ballyoptic such was the speed with which he made up into a Grade 1 winner last spring.
Ballyoptic debuted for Nigel Twiston-Davies only in late February, but just 47 days later he beat Bellshill, subsequently a Grade 1 winner for the third time at Punchestown, by a neck at Aintree. He is available at 16-1 for the provisionally vacant World Hurdle title and could start his season in the Silver Trophy.
Emerging Force, 2.50
There were few happier moments in the previous season than Arzal’s Manifesto win for the ascendant Harry Whittington and one of the saddest stories over the close season was news of his death due to complications from a tendon injury.
The mantle at the Whittington yard passes to Emerging Force, who progressed through the ranks last spring, eventually going off 6-1 for a Grade 1 novice at Punchestown. He failed to do himself justice that day, but could well be a better chaser and starts off in the novice chase that Thistlecrack had been pencilled in for, but will now skip.
Sire De Grugy, 4.00
Former Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy’s 2015-16 season ended on a downer, but he did manage a reasonable impression of his best form during the winter, winning the Tingle Creek and pushing Sprinter Sacre close in a memorable renewal of the Desert Orchid. He started his annus mirabilis in this same race and it will be worth tuning in to see how he shapes at the beginning of this campaign.